‘Rise of the Pink Ladies’ Creator Annabel Oakes Says Prequel Series Will Touch on Controversial ‘Grease’ Content

“Yeah, there are some lyrics that are problematic” Oakes said about the 1978 musical adaptation

Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies
"Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies" on Paramount+

Turns out nothing is too pure – or too controversial – to be pink.

Annabel Oakes, creator and showrunner of the “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,” says the TV series won’t shy away from tackling some of the controversial content in “Grease.”

On April 6, Paramount+ will release its prequel to the popular musical film “Grease,” which is centered on the friendship, romance and adventures of a group of high school students in the 1950s. In this reimagined take, “Rise of the Pink Ladies” takes place four years prior to its predecessor and focuses on the Pink Ladies Rizzo, Frenchy, Marty and Jan.

And while the series promises to give audiences that same nostalgic ‘50s feel with from a 2020’s perspective, it won’t avoid some of the controversial content from the original, which has been called out for exhibiting rape culture, misogyny and racism. 

“We love ‘Grease.’ We refer to it as the mothership, and we always go back to it. It was made in a time, and it was commenting on another. So, ‘Grease’ was the ‘70s commenting on the ‘50s. They were telling really subversive, funny songs and stories about the ‘50s from the ‘70s point of view. Now we’re in the 2020s and we get to comment on what they said in the ‘70s and the ‘50s, which is a cool experience, said Oakes during a panel discussion at the 2023 Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour.

Oakes, who was joined by some of the cast of “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” also mentioned they wanted to open up a bigger conversation about racism and sexism through the series.

“Yeah, there are some lyrics that are problematic. As you see, we reference those in the pilot and other dialogue. You’ll see us start to reference … to try to open up the world of ‘Grease’ and the lens of ‘Grease’ through taking a deeper look at those and getting other people’s perspectives.”

The series stars Marisa Davila as Jane, Cheyenne Isabel Wells as Olivia, Ari Notartomaso as Cynthia, Tricia Fukuhara as Nancy, Shanel Bailey as Hazel, Madison Thompson as Susan,  Johnathan Nieves as Richie, Jason Schmidt as Buddy, Maxwell Whittington-Cooper as Wally and Jackie Hoffman as Asst. Principal McGee. 

Oakes will also serve as executive producer and showrunner. “Rise of the Pink Ladies” drops on Paramount+ with 10 episodes on April 6.